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Five National Merit Semifinalists in Oxford, Lafayette Co.

National Merit semifinalists have been notified and the state cutoff scores have seeped out. Mississippi’s NMSF cutoff remained at 207 this year.
Oxford High School has four National Merit semifinalists. This is fewer than the 11 last year or the 12 the year before, but is still an outstanding performance. Lafayette County High School has one semifinalist.
Oxford High School’s Semifinalists are William E. Anderson, David M. Dennis, Joonhee Jo, and William G. Tollison. Lafayette County’s semifinalist is Addison E. Roush. Congratulations to these winners, who are now automatically eligible for full-ride scholarships to many universities worth as much $250,000!
I’m surprised. I predicted that this year’s cutoff would be 205, two points lower than last year. I based this on a two-point drop in the score for commended students, and on the substantial drop in Mississippi critical reading scores. Of course, math and writing scores were up.
PSAT2The Commended Student cutoff for this year is 201, and this info has been out for quite a while. In 2010 and 2011, and the semifinalist cutoffs were 203 and 205 respectively, so this year has the largest gap between the Commended cutoff and the NMSF cutoff in Mississippi’s testing history.
Most states had a drop in their cutoff score. Alabama, for example, had a four-point drop to tie Mississippi at 207. Alabama’s cutoff has tended to be five or six points higher than Mississippi’s.
While this is bad news for those of us hoping our children will make the cutoff in a year or two, it’s good news for Mississippi. Semifinalists represent the top one-percent of graduates in each state. Commended students are made up of those scoring in the top three percent nationally who don’t make Semifinalist. There were years in the past where Mississippi had no commended students; our top one percent was so far behind the rest of the nation that the Semifinalist cutoff was at or below the Commended cutoff.
So a 207 Mississippi cutoff means that our state’s best students are closing the gap with students from high-achievement states. A large gap still remains, though, as the chart reveals; the Massachusetts cutoff this year is 223.
Frank Hurdle is a graduate of Ole Miss and the Ole Miss Law School and can be contacted at frankhurdle@hurdlelaw.com. He was the 1987-88 editor of The Daily Mississippian.

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